Creating Consilience: Integrating the Sciences and the Humanities – Edward Slingerland & Mark Collard


Calls for a “consilient” or “vertically integrated” approach to the study of human mind and culture have, for the most part, been received by scholars in the humanities with either indifference or hostility. One reason for this is that consilience has often been framed as bringing the study of humanistic issues into line with the study of non-human phenomena, rather than as something to which humanists and scientists contribute equally. The other major reason that consilience has yet to catch on in the humanities is a dearth of compelling examples of the benefits of adopting a consilient approach. Creating Consilience is the product of a workshop that brought together internationally-renowned scholars from a variety of fields to address both of these issues. It includes representative pieces from workshop speakers and participants that examine how adopting such a consilient stance — informed by cognitive science and grounded in evolutionary theory — would concretely impact specific topics in the humanities, examining each topic in a manner that not only cuts across the humanities-natural science divide, but also across individual humanistic disciplines. By taking seriously the fact that science-humanities integration is a two-way exchange, this volume takes a new approach to bridging the cultures of science and the humanities. The editors and contributors formulate how to develop a new shared framework of consilience beyond mere interdisciplinarity, in a way that both sides can accept.

Table of Contents

Edward Slingerland and Mark Collard Creating Consilience: Toward a Second Wave
Part I: Theoretical Issues
Section One: Ontologies for the Human
Ch. 1The humanities and human nature
Ch. 2 The meta-physical realities of the un-physical sciences: Why vertical integration seems un-realistic to ontological pluralists
Ch. 3 Mind-body dualism and the two cultures
Ch. 4 On the psychological origins of dualism: Dual-process cognition and the explanatory gap
Section Two: Consilience Through The Lens of Anthropology
Ch. 5 From studious irrelevancy to consilient knowledge: Modes of scholarship and cultural anthropology
Ch. 6 Whence and whither sociocultural anthropology
Ch. 7 Unconsilience: Rethinking the two-cultures conundrum in anthropology
Part II: Case Studies
Section Three: Culture
Ch. 8 Culture in songbirds and its contribution toward the evolution of new species
Ch. 9 When does psychology drive culture?
Ch. 10 Quantifying the importance of motifs on Attic figure-painted pottery
Ch. 11 Agents, intelligence, and social atoms
Section Four: Religion
Ch. 12 Evolutionary Religious Studies (ERS): A beginner’s guide
Ch. 13 The cultural evolution of religion
Ch. 14 The importance of being “Ernest”
Section Five: Morality
Ch. 15 We’re all connected: Science, ethics and the law
Ch. 16 The evolution of a sense of morality
Ch. 17 Behavioral ethics
Ch. 18 Interdisciplinary education and knowledge translation programs in neuroethics
Section Six: Literature and Oral Traditions
Ch. 19 “‘Once the child is lost he dies”: Monster stories vis-a-vis the problem of errant children
Ch. 20 “By weapons made worthy”: a Darwinian perspective on Beowulf
Ch. 21 Palaeolithic politics in British novels of the Nineteenth Century
Ch. 22 Language, cognition and literature
“Two Points About Two Cultures”
“Integrating Science and the Humanities”
List of talks and workshop participants


“The book is written for a mixed audience of scientists and humanists, and as such is widely accessible in style, with technical terms being explained in the text. The wide ranging case studies show it to be an important read, not just for those who consider themselves to be in disciplines ‘near the boundary’ between the humanities and sciences, but for all scientists and humanists. The book well serves the most important function a book of its kind can — to provoke debate among scholars who might not ordinarily communicate with one another.”–Ruth Hibbert, Metapsychology Online Reviews


Oxford University Press page

Leave a Reply